Thursday, April 04, 2019


The New York Times and The Washington Post are reporting that members of Robert Mueller's team believe that Attorney General Bill Barr's four-page summary of the Mueller report distorts the report's findings. They say that what they found and reported was "more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated," in the words of the Times story. The Post reports that team members "have complained to close associates that the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant."

Barr says he'll release a report with required redactions by the middle of this month. Politico warns of a redaction battle:
Next up in the fight over Robert Mueller’s final report: the redaction wars.

House Democrats want to see everything related to the special counsel’s nearly two-year-old investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But their open-book demands stand at odds with the Justice Department’s desire to black out sensitive areas throughout Mueller’s 400-page submission.

The high-stakes chess match will play out on both political and legal grounds, and so far neither side has yet to show any signs of compromise.

As a result, the battle could spill into the courts, setting up a protracted legal confrontation that inevitably causes waves in the thick of the 2020 White House race.
Barr might pull a bait-and-switch and refuse to hand over even the redacted version of the report. His excuse might be House efforts to subpoena material he doesn't want Congress to see, or these new leaks, or who knows what. More likely, he'll keep his word, but he'll release something so heavily censored that it's a mockery of transparency.

Barr says, in Politico's words, that he wants to edit the report "to redact several categories of information: classified details, grand jury testimony, material relevant to ongoing investigations and nuggets that could cause 'reputational' harm for 'peripheral third parties.'" Couldn't Barr define the president of the United States as a "peripheral third party"? Mueller, we're told, couldn't prove that Trump was involved in a conspiracy, and he punted to Barr on obstruction, a charge on which Barr cleared Trump. Couldn't Barr define Trump and anyone who wasn't indicted as "peripheral" -- meaning, among others, everyone named Trump and Kushner?

Whatever is cut from Barr's version of the report, Congress will be fighting in court to see important parts of this report. This fight will go on for months.


As will the fight for Trump's tax returns. House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal has formally requested six years of personal tax returns, as well as returns from a number of Trump corporate entities. News reports claim that under the law the returns can't be withheld. But expect a court battle here, too, as Axios noted a few days ago, before the request was made:
According to Ways and Means member Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), the court process could take 8 or 9 months, meaning the request would have to be submitted soon if Democrats don't want to be perceived as interfering with the 2020 campaign.
Eight or nine months from now puts us right around the Iowa caucuses.

On the other hand, CNN foresees "a battle with the administration that could stretch months or even years in the courts" (emphasis added).

I think the president will find some way to block the release of these forms. I suspect that they'll be extremely embarrassing for him -- not primarily because they reveal complex webs of criminality (I imagine they reveal a lot of sleaze that's perfectly legal), but because they understate Trump's earnings.

I assume Donald Trump routinely lies to the IRS about how much money he makes, as a simple way of lowering his taxes. I think he does this because he lies about everything in order to gain some advantage or other. I don't think Trump worries about being revealed as a tax cheat -- I think he's worried that the tax returns will make him look less wealthy than he says he is.

But I won't hold my breath waiting for the House to receive the returns. This will be the fight of Trump's life. He'll do everything in his power to prevent the release of the returns. If they're released at all, it will be next winter at the earliest.

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